The one thing which has been clear from the outset of the life of the new Galway City Council has been that it will be different from the last couple of chambers.
First of all, the membership has been increased from 15 to 18. Second, there are seven new members, and only two of those are from the main parties. That itself is a reflection of where society is, politically, at present. The third, and possibly most significant factor, is that along with the aforementioned, the dynamics have also changed.
For the previous 10 years the council, despite appearances, has been run by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. They have been involved in all of the big decisions. Former Fine Gael councillor and now FG Galway West TD Brian Walsh and Fianna Fáil councillor Michael J Crowe were close and had a good working and personal relationship. Nothing happened involving either of their respective parties on Galway City Council without their blessing.
That’s why Insider was surprised at developments which took place in the aftermath of May’s Local Elections, when a new pact was being formed. Furthermore, they also trusted one another, a commodity rare and invaluable in politics. This was understood to be the bedrock of things - but no more.
Cheating and consummated relationships
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the two parties falling out over a controlling agreement this time round, Insider believes it will have lasting consequences. Fianna Fáil feel wronged solely because of the manner in which Fine Gael broke up the marriage. FG did the cheating and consummated another relationship without even telling its former partner. That’s life though. The old PDs were no angels either. Politicians will sell their soul for power and councillors Lyons, McDonnell, and O’Flaherty proved to be no exception.
Insider understands Cllr Donal Lyons was doing the rounds the evening of the count seeking out partners of suitability. Insider further contends that he did not seem very concerned with who those partners might be, more that they would ensure he was the first Mayor of the new council - a position he now holds.
However, actions mean consequences and we will have to wait to see what these are. With that said, it is interesting how the leader of Fine Gael on the council, Cllr Pádraig Conneely has been carrying on. There’s always something with Cllr Conneely. The latest row is with party colleague Cllr Frank Fahy. For the first time in his political career, Conneely had a running mate in his local ward and Cllr Fahy left him for dead. Conneely was in dire trouble and just scraped in to win a seat - embarrassing for the then high profile Mayor.
The bickering between these two will go on for some time with the latest comment from Cllr Fahy that Cllr Conneely might have gone to the recently held Oyster Festival if he had had a free ticket! Another interesting new character around the table is fellow FGer Pearce Flannery (who Insider believes is no friend of Cllr Conneely ). There seems to be a trend here.
Winning the women’s vote
As late as the last council meeting, Cllr Conneely was the driving force behind postponing having the Joint Policing Committee established. Insider wondered why. There are a lot of “talking shops” on the go in Galway City Council but this one is one more of the useful ones. It allows the councillors question the gardaí in public. Cllr Conneely spouted about all sorts of reasons why it should be postponed - and when Cllr Conneely is looking to postpone, there is always a reason.
Insider contends that the reason is, that although there are 11 places available on this committee, he is looking to work out an arrangement that will exclude any Fianna Fáil member.
This could be done by persuasion. In a nutshell, if he could persuade the female Sinn Fein councillors and Independent councillor Catherine Connolly, who are outside the controlling pact, to support these his pact nominated, he in turn would support them. Both sides would get to sit on the JPC and FF would be left out. In essence he needs female support (the pact is an old boys’ club, not that big on females ).
If Cllr Conneely manages that, then the criteria can be met to include gender balance required to make up the 11 members with Fianna Fáil unable to secure a place. This committee is down for decision at the next Monday night’s council meeting. It will be interesting to see if Cllr Conneely’s wishes materialise.
In order to do so, Sinn Féin and Cllr Connolly will have to succumb to Cllr Conneely’s charms along with new Independent and incoming chair of the JPC Cllr Mike Cubbard. Cllr Cubbard will probably do what he’s told as he has form here. He promised the people that he would work to reduce the property tax yet given the first opportunity he baulked and did not support this. He will learn in time that not all of the pact members have his best interests in mind.
Insider believes Cllr Conneely’s real challenge will be in convincing councillors Connolly, Marley, and Farrell. Whatever the outcome, the next council meetings will make for interesting viewing.